Something stinks around Halas Hall and the Lakefront mausoleum they call Soldier Field. It’s the offense and… it… smells… bad!!! They will be calling for cadaver dogs next Monday if the Bears don’t right the ship against Detroit on Sunday. That corpse you smell isn’t a Fox like you’d think. It’s the career of coordinator Dowell Loggains going down the shute, in a bunch formation.
I am well aware of the volcanic anger that Bears fans feel this week. It’s inevitable that most of that lava is directed toward the head coach, since he is the face of the franchise and has to go before the media, once a week, like it’s a firing squad. The resignation or reaction, on Fox’s face said it all, when the Bears won their challenge, but lost the ball, on Benny Cunningham’s 30 yard screen pass, that came ever so close to being a touchdown.
I could write an article about that horrible call, that reversed the possession to the Packers, or I could weigh the pro’s and cons of pulling the trigger, and firing John Fox, but let’s digress for a second, shall we… before I examine the real reason why the Bears lost.
First, everyone is saying that Fox shouldn’t have challenged the call. The Bears would’ve had possession at the one yard line and would’ve been certain to score right? As a coach, you don’t deal in what if’s. Benny Cunningham argued that he scored on the play and Fox backed him up, by challenging the call. That’s why players love Fox, he has their back’s. Cunningham would later admit that everything was his fault, to the challenge, to him losing the ball. There is no guarantee that the Bears would’ve scored on the next play, What if there was a penalty? A turnover? There are a lot of things that could’ve happened, and unfortunately for Fox, nothing went right, not even the reviewed call.
The way I saw it. He was out of bounds, which was the initial call, before he lost control of the ball and before it touched the pylon without possession. It should’ve been Bears ball on the half-yard line.
Now that is settled, I would like you to know that Mike Mulligan, morning host for the Score 670 am and occasional columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has already written such an article weighing the pro’s and con’s of removing John Fox (“Fire John Fox, it’s more complicated than you think”), and it was golden.
Mulligan says George McCaskey, the Bears Chairman, may want to pause before he launches Fox. McCaskey has overseen the firings of Lovie Smith and Mark Trestman already, Fox would be the third coach fired in 6 years. Mulligan said in reference, to the possibility of a fourth head coach on George’s watch, “When a man introduces you to his fourth wife, you don’t wonder what was wrong with the first three.”
That is a direct shot across the bow, at ship McCaskey. Sports writers in Chicago have long lamented the lack of “football people” in the hierarchy at Halas Hall. There is no one in Virginia McCaskey’s side of the family that has even played the game. The team President Ted Phillips was their accountant and has been promoted all the way to the top without showing any acumen for the game. It is an unknowing source of embarrassment for the McCaskey family, and a seemingly bottomless source of fodder for the press, that Phillips used an outside consultant to help hire the last 2 general manager’s.
That the family always went on the thrifty side in hiring front office personnel and have never wanted to cede to much power to a football guy, is exactly why the Bears have been an inconsistent mess since parting with Mike Ditka 25 years ago and firing Ditka’s friend, GM Jerry Vainisi, the year after the Bears won Super Bowl 25.
Since then the Bears have been run by a bunch of thin-skinned, ass kissers (the Tobin’s) and people generally out of their depth in professional football. The jury is still out on current General Manager Ryan Pace, an attempt to get a younger man’s point of view and energy into the building.. But after this latest loss to the Packers and the circumstances with which it happened, I am going to tell you his arrow is pointing sharply downward.
Pace drafted center Hroniss Grasu in the third round of his first draft. He thought so much of him, he drafted Cody Whitehair, Grasu’s replacement, the next year in the second round. Since then, Ryan Pace has not added an offensive lineman to the Bears through the draft that has stuck. He has struck out far more than he has connected and must get rid of Grasu, who is not NFL caliber. Three years in, and the guy who said he’d build through the draft, has one good lineman to show for it, unacceptable, especially when you consider that the draft positions were in the top 10, twice in three years.
An offensive line is like a foundation for your house, it must be big and sturdy, strong enough for your whole house, not piecemeal and out of position. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr., was considered to small for tackle and better suited for guard by most draft pundits, was drafted by Phil Emery in 2014, but given an extension by Pace in the off season. Emery drafted Leno the year after he selected right guard Kyle Long, also contract extended, in spite of his injury problems. Bobby Massie was a free-agent pickup by Pace, from Arizona, after the Cardinals did not offer him a contract to come back. Pace also picked up left guard Josh Sitton after Green Bay waived him due to back problems.
Pace has missed in latter rounds with a couple of offensive line picks, not even adding to the depth chart. The Bears backups across the board have all been journeymen and signed off the street. Last year Eric Kush played great after Sitton got injured mid-season. Kush was given a contract extension last March, and promptly tore his hamstring from the bone and has been done for the year. Bradley Sowell is the backup tackle, Tom Compton is the backup guard, that’s it.
Hroniss Grasu is the backup center, but he is not nearly big enough or physical enough to play in the NFL, he should be playing in Canada. But, he started last week against the Packers, when the Bears realized in warmups that starting guard Kyle Long couldn’t play with his mangled hand, ankle and shoulder injuries. Why so late, I don’t know, you would think either the offensive coordinator or line coach might know something about the health of their players. But with Tom Compton already out with an ankle injury, Long became the only backup interior lineman. Whitehair moved from center to guard because he has the size and was a guard in college.
Grasu started, and Grasu was given the lowest grade by Pro Football Focus, for any offensive lineman in the last two years. Cut him, but replace him…please. And add another one or two backup linemen onto my tab, Ryan, while you are at it. Do the Bears really need Josh Bellamy or Marcus Wheaton, two unproductive receivers? Wheaton in particular, he complained about Glennon, has one catch on the year, and is never healthy. Nice miss there Mr. Pace, for what, 12 million over the next two years.
In the Packer’s game, the Bears came out of the gate on their first offensive play with a rollout and pass to 6 foot 7 inch tight end Adam Shaheen for 30 yards and was impressive. What happened after that, in 99% of the offensive plays, was not. Shaheen was targeted once more, all game long, for a 9 yard completion.
After the opening 30 yard play, the Bears had two false start penalties on the backup tight end Dan Brown and right guard Cody Whitehair, playing in Long’s spot. After that, in 1st down and now, 20 yards, Jordan Howard ran up the middle for ten yards. 2nd and ten, in a bunch formation, as usual, against a TEN MAN FRONT, I counted. Howard runs up the middle for two measly yards.
Is it a mental block with Loggains that he can’t spread his receivers out wide? It’s infuriating as well, that they are starting this rookie at quarterback, who doesn’t know that he should check to a pass, because the one receiver he has outside, is in single man coverage. Which means, he only had to beat his man in order to score. Well, catch the ball, and then outrun one guy. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, this is the Bears receiver corps, another Pace blunder.
So, third down and eight yards, Trubisky looks to his right, and throws a dart to Bellamy, which he catches! A miracle! Problem was, the catch was at least three yards short of the marker. d&#%@$$!!! What a freakin’ idiot!!!!! You are supposed to run, just past the yard marker that marks the first down, then turn around, and catch the ball. They teach you that in little league football for crying out loud!!!
These things, from the depth issue problem, to a lineman not telling you until game time that he can’t play, being forced to play backup’s who aren’t good enough for the NFL, players making mistake after mistake, and a coordinator not drilling the most basic knowledge into players, simply isn’t Fox’s fault. His coordinator and lower level coaches ( receiver and line coach) are failing to a degree, that these problems are now very much in the spotlight, due to this embarrassing loss to the Packers. A game in which the Bears were favored by 6 points.
Upon hearing on ESPN Radio 1000’s Jeff Dickerson talk postmortem on Wednesday, about Kyle Long’s injuries and the offensive line having to be shuffled, right before the Packer game, it’s clear that Fox isn’t getting all of the information that he needs to manage the Bears, from his medical staff and coaches. The uncertainty on the offensive line at kickoff, was the biggest contributing factor in the Bears loss. It’s why the Bears had so many penalties in the first half, couldn’t get into a rhythm when they wanted to throw the ball, only to settle down in the second half.
They trailed all game long because of the horrific call on Cunningham, probably took 7 points off the board. There was to much push on the offensive line up the middle, because of you know who. As such, the line could not protect Trubisky well enough while the Bears were trying to come back.
By the way, what happened to Mitchell’s escapability Rich Campbell?
After halftime Fox reduced the number of 2nd half penalties by 90%. The team is listening to Fox and has not quit. If anything, certain members of the team, perhaps, tried too hard to make a play and left the Bears vulnerably to bad plays at bad times. He will have to rally the troops further and become even more involved to the most minute level, to correct a lot of these problems in the week leading up to the Detroit game. I think the Bears will play a much cleaner game against Detroit, as a result.
Fox doesn’t have much time to examine several games worth of tape with his protege of an offensive coordinator, and focus on the plays and packages that have had success. But something has to give, Loggains needs to start showing growth as a coordinator and play-caller, quickly. Otherwise it may be time to give Dave Ragone, the quarterbacks coach, and a former NFL quarterback himself, the opportunity to start calling the plays.
Hopefully, the Loggains will stop with the bunch formations, start spreading people out and get Tarik Cohen more involved in the game plan. The fact that Cohen had one rush, and one reception in the Packer game is unacceptable for one of the Bears best weapons, as evidenced by the Packers double-teams when Cohen was on the field.
I still think it would be a good idea to lead off the game with the two-minute drill, or going no huddle, to get Trubisky and the offensive line into a rhythm of throwing the ball and hopefully give the Bears a lead. I believe I heard last weeks announcer Chris Spielman say that the Bears are the only team in the league to not score a touchdown on an opening drive all year. Put that on your resume Dowell!!
I know that I didn’t cover the disappointing play of the defense in this article. I lost count of all the missed tackles. I will make my criticisms known when I finally grade everything thing in sight in my next article. Grades: the early part of the alphabet.